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My wife died last December and the hospital where she had been receiving treatment is sending bills to the home, in her name, asking for payment. I called them and told them that she was deceased and I had previously given them the documentation for that. The customer service person said they did have the information I had provided (death certificate) and also that I'm responsible since we were married at the time of her death. I told them the estate lawyer we had spoken to told us that I would not be responsible for the debt.

Can anyone direct me to a statute, regulation or law (state or Federal) that shows I am responsible for this debt?

I don't know if it makes a difference but she was in hospice care at home when she died, she was not admitted to the hospital.

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If you lived in a community property state, that would create responsibility for your late wife's debts (but Kansas is not one). If you signed a financial responsibility agreement you would be liable (but I assumed you did not). No matter what, her estate is liable, and that could eventually affect you (her debts must be paid first). However, there is one last criterion, the "doctrine of necessaries". This ruling notes

Kansas recognizes the doctrine of necessaries, under which a spouse can be held liable when the other spouse obtains necessary items, like food or medical care, on credit.

See also St. Francis Regional Med. Center, Inc. v. Bowles for support that the doctrine survives in Kansas.

  • I have never seen that doctrine applied after a death. I am not from Kansas, though. – Putvi Jun 6 '19 at 20:28
  • @user6726 thank you for the link. I read the case it seems that I may or may not be liable if I understand it correctly. I didn't sign anything with the hospital, but this current debt is apparently a payment plan my wife entered into. However, the first link implies to me that since the plan was approved without the inclusion of my income, the doctrine may not apply. Anyway, for the information and education in your answer, I'm accepting it as the answer. Thanks again! – Tmartin Jun 6 '19 at 20:36
  • @Tmartin now that she has passed that doctrine would not apply or at least no court has held it to apply yet. – Putvi Jun 6 '19 at 21:33
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Kansas is not a community property state, so you may not be responsible for her debts.

That would change if you cosigned for a debt though.

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